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Spinal Cord Disorders Message Board

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Hi Lisa
My situation is somewhat similar to yours. My C Spine is fused C4/5/6/7 after 2 ACDF surgeries, a year apart.

I also have back pain as you've describe - high (between the shoulder blades), and also lumbar.

I was on narcotic pain meds for 20 months after the 2nd ACDF, and finally stopped taking them due to the side effects. My Drs still want me to take them, but I could not tolerate the dependencies that come with long-term use of those kind of meds.

I suggest you get MRIs of the areas you have trouble with. Otherwise, you are truly just shooting in the dark concerning possible treatments. X Rays probably won't reveal that much. I don't believe there is a health risk assoicated with MRIs; you could ask your Drs if you have concerns

I am currently doing the following to try and manage the chronic pain:

- Life style changes - I avoid activities that aggravate the pain, and rest when I feel the pain is becoming worse. Lying down seems to help me, and I need to do that each day for several hours after work.

- Lower back - MRIs reveal degeneration of discs and facet joints. 5 months ago I underwent injections of facet joints, and also an epidural injection. Those seemed to help me a lot, but the pain seems to be coming back, which is not unusual from what the Dr said. The injections are primarily a steroid to reduce inflammation, and can be repeated 3 or 4 times a year. I may be heading for another round if the pain continues to get worse.

- Neck - MRIs reveal continuing narrowing due to osteophyte growth, despite the ACDfs. A couple of weeks ago I had an epidural injection of several places in my C spine, and so far it seems to have helped a lot. This is similar to my low back experience, with the expectation that the pain will return over time.

- Massage - I visit a licensed massage therapist every 2 or 3 weeks. These are not recreational, and I don't really look forward to them. After 18 months, I believe they have benefit in reducing inflammation and relieving tension. I was sceptical at first, but over an extended period I feel that these have improved my chronic pain problems.

- Pain meds - though I will not take these anymore on a routine basis, I will use them to get me through a tough spot. Last week I had to travel to the UK, about 22 hours straight of airplane time, airport lines, etc. Pain meds helped me get through this ordeal.

MRIs were an essential part of diagnosing what kind of problems I have, and which levels of the spine are affected.

None of these things are a 'cure' - just things I am learning to do to help me deal with these kinds of problems. I suspect I may need more surgery down the road since my problems considered degenerative, but I am hoping to put that off as long as possible.

Thanks, Bob, for your excellent post. I am sure I will have to get lower and upper MRIs when I see the new neurosurgeon. I keep "wishing" the pain will go away, even questioning it at times "is it really that bad." It IS bad though. I spend every night at home with 2 heating pads on me. I do have leftover pain meds from my surgery but I hold off on taking it. The mornings are much better than the evenings - the pain gets worse as the day goes on. But I can even wake up with a sore back - that's not normal, right?

When I had the MRI in Oct., it said I had two small herniations C4-5 and C6-7. I wonder if they have gotten worse. I also have spinal stenosis in my cervical spine and osteophyte growth (even at the C5-6 level where I had ACDF).

I am young, too :(

Take care,
Lisa, I wouldn't worry too much about having too many MRIs and x-rays. There certainly is an accumulated risk of the radiation, but I think you are only in danger when you have TONS of them. My dad was in the hosptial for about a year after a spinal courd injury, and he was getting either and x-ray, a ct scan or an MRI just about every other day. Even with that, the doctors were not very concerned about it.

About your situation, I am very curious about what the neurologist says. I, too, had a fusion at C5-6, albiet more recently than you (jan25th 08). I am having the same upper back pain. My surgeon assured me that it was just the nerves getting settled, and still being a little irritated from the surgery. The weird thing is that while I did have a lot of pain in the inter-scapular area before surgery, the pain I have now is right in my spine, and does not feel at all like the nerve pain I had. It is more sharp, and does not burn or anything like that. I went to a chirpopractor, and he said he thinks the upper back pain is not related to the cervical fusion. I wish I had an answer for you, but I am just as curious as you are. Please keep us posted about what the neuro says.
I have suffered for many years with neck and upper back pain due to a motorcross accident in 77. I have resisted having injections or any surgery and use yoga positions and stretching to ease the pain. I am an Engineer mainly involved in machine design but I am turning my attention to working on a design project that I hope will easy my neck pain. I am designing a massage bed that will extend the spine a few millimeters to help relieve tense muscles and release pressure on the nerves in my neck. I have had a good look at the various types of massage beds on the market but none of them seem to target the neck region. I am not talking about a harness that pulls the vertebrae apart but a platform of moving nodules that push the back and head up as you are lying on it. I would very much appreciate if someone could give me some feedback on my idea. I have sent questionaires to massage therapists and received some interesting comments but I would be interested to hear from people that are suffering from this kind of problem with their spine. Do you think my idea would work for you for instance?

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